Why Learning About Interpersonal Violence Matters

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month is coming to a close, it’s important to address why talking about domestic violence is so important as a nation and especially as a campus.

 

The term domestic violence itself is problematic due to the picture it paints in our minds. Domestic violence encapsulates more than just the common idea of the physical abuse between a husband and a wife. Domestic violence includes spousal, parent-child, partner-partner, and roommate-roommate violence. Domestic violence also does not only involve physical violence. Sexual violence, coercion, exploitation, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse all qualify as domestic violence. The narrow and popular view of a husband-wife relationship de-legitimizes the experiences of individuals in all kinds of relationships, and because of this there has been a recent push to refer to domestic violence as interpersonal violence, so that the term more aptly matches the problem it describes.

Interpersonal violence is so important to talk about on college campuses because, as college students, we are one of the most at risk populations to experience interpersonal violence. It is no secret that sexual and relationship violence are common realities on countless college campuses. In fact, in a study done by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of 43,000 college age individuals, 48% of women surveyed experienced interpersonal violence within the last 12 months including 20% of these women who experienced rape or sexual exploitation.

 

The percentage of college age students that are exposed to interpersonal violence becomes even larger when looking at members of the LGBT community. Bisexual women experience significantly higher rates of interpersonal violence than heterosexual women or lesbian women, and similarly gay and bisexual males have higher rates of interpersonal violence compared to heterosexual males. This harsh reality for the LGBT community is seldom discussed due to lack of research in such communities. For the few studies that have been done, researchers have clumped non-hetero sexual orientations together and merely compared the findings to those of a heterosexual population resulting in little insight for the widespread effects of interpersonal violence on LGBT community members.

 

As college students we are undergoing constant personal, emotional, social, and environmental changes. Because of all of these changes, college campuses are prime locations for interpersonal violence to run rampant. Factors like peer pressure, stressful schedules, academic demands, drug and alcohol prevalence, tight-knit friend groups, social media, and lack of prior relationship experience all contribute to making college aged women the most at risk population for interpersonal violence in the United States. Interpersonal violence is seldom talked about in college despite its continual presence on campus. This silence is caused in part by the lack of reports filed by victims out of fear for physical or social repercussions and because of lack of education about what interpersonal violence is and what situations constitute such violence. It is critical that we understand and talk about the numerous kinds of interpersonal violence so that victims are empowered to come forward and classmates and community members embrace their role in preventing and stopping such violence.  

If you or someone you know is experiencing interpersonal violence please reach out to someone be it AU’s Title IX coordinator, the counseling center, a staff or faculty member, or a friend. You can also visit the following websites to file reports and learn more information or call a survivor hotline.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: https://www.thehotline.org/

File a Title IX Report at AU: https://www.american.edu/ocl/TitleIX/report.cfm

AU Counseling Center Number: 202-885-3500

The National Domestic Violence Hotline Number: 1-800-799-7233

Sources: 1, 2, 3 

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